The Rock Doctors & Opinions on The Shins

Rock Doctors: It's time to help another listener in need. Drs. Kot and DeRogatis consult with another ailing patient and give their rock and roll prescriptions. Then, stay tuned for reviews of new albums by John Mellencamp, The Shins and The Good, the Bad and the Queen.

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Last week the Atlanta Police Dept., in conjunction with the RIAA, raided the Aphilliates Music Group office in Atlanta. The result was the confiscation of 81,000 mixtape CDs and the arrest of DJ Drama. Drama is one of the top mixtape DJs working today, having created pre-release buzz for rappers like T.I., Young Jeezy and Lil' Wayne. 50 Cent, Lupe Fiasco and The Clipse can also credit mixtape CDs with laying the foundation for their careers, and many of the best hip hop tracks released each year are put out by these underground DJs and not by the major labels. The question is why some members of the record industry are now treating this useful form of publicity as contraband. Jim and Greg invite hip hop historian and journalist Jeff Chang to join them in a discussion of the role of mixtapes in hip hop and the effects of this recent raid on the rap industry.

reviewFreedom's RoadFreedom's Road available on iTunes

John Mellencamp Freedom's Road

Next up is a discussion of the latest album by Americana rocker John Mellencamp. Anyone who has seen a Chevrolet commercial in the past few months can probably recognize his new single, "Our Country." Previously, the singer/songwriter has criticized artists for“selling-out,”but it seems the challenge of selling records today has prompted a change of heart. Whether or not they agree with Mellencamp's decision to go the commercial route is moot when it comes to Jim and Greg's review of the album. Freedom's Road is Mellencamp's 21st album, and Jim and Greg both find it pretty generic, and at times, even cheesy. Greg wishes his lyrics had the detail and sense of time and place that they once did. And Jim wishes the singer took more of a stand on the social and political woes he describes in the songs. Both critics give the album a Trash It.

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Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.

Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.

Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.

A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).

Unless you are a full-time rock critic, it can be difficult to maintain good musical health. That's where the Rock Doctors come in. Do you have a musical allergy or addiction? Or do you have a friend or relative who needs an intervention? The Sound Opinions clinic has its doors open​.

reviewWincing the Night AwayWincing the Night Away available on iTunes

The Shins Wincing the Night Away

Our Rock Doctors patient and tons of fans have been anxiously awaiting The Shins' third album, Wincing the Night Away. The band got notice after its first two albums received critical praise and industry buzz. Natalie Portman's character in Garden State even proclaimed that their music would“change your life.”Now the Albuquerque band attempts to change more lives with their new Sub Pop release. Jim admits that he previously found the Shins' brand of "power-pop" more wimpy than powerful. But he thinks the band has added more depth and more kick to their sound without sacrificing their light, jangly sound or poetic lyrics. He gives the album a hearty Buy It. Greg agrees. He appreciates that despite the band's increased success and increased budget, the sound remains modest. He predicts fans will need to give Wincing the Night Away a few listens before really“getting it,”but also gives the album a Buy It.

reviewThe Good, the Bad & the QueenThe Good, the Bad and the Queen available on iTunes

The Good, the Bad and the Queen The Good, the Bad and the Queen

The final album up for review this week is by The Good, the Bad and the Queen. The band is a“supergroup”of sorts, formed by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn. Like with his project Gorillaz, Albarn is joined by a number of big name musicians and producers including The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, pioneer and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen and DJ Danger Mouse. Fans are anxiously awaiting a potential Blur reunion, but for now they have this group's self-titled debut. Jim, for one, is sated. He thinks Albarn is one of the greatest creative forces working today and finds the album to be a really effective, sustained mood piece. He gives The Good, the Bad and the Queen a Buy It. Greg, on the other hand, was completely bored by the record. He didn't hear any all-star talent from the all-star lineup and gives a Trash It rating.


Featured Songs

  1. DJ Drama,“South Muzik,”Dedication II Mixtape, 2006
  2. Young Jeezy,“Go Crazy,”Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, 2006
  3. John Mellencamp,“Our Country,”Freedom's Road, 2007
  4. John Mellencamp, The Americans, Freedom's Road, 5. Brian Eno,“Sombre Reptiles,”Another Green World, 1975
  5. Rolling Stones,“Dear Doctor,”Beggars Banquet, 1968
  6. Tom Petty & the Hearbreakers,“American Girl,”Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1976
  7. U2,“I Still Haven‘t Found What I’m Looking For,”The Joshua Tree, 1987
  8. The Arcade Fire,“Wake Up,”Funeral, 2004
  9. Sleater-Kinney,“Call the Doctor,”Call the Doctor, 1996
  10. The Arcade Fire,“Rebellion (Lies),”Funeral, 2004
  11. Wilco,“Theologians,”A Ghost Is Born, 2004
  12. Wilco,“Less Than You Think,”A Ghost Is Born, 2004
  13. Wilco,“The Late Greats,”A Ghost is Born, 2004
  14. Spank Rock,“Bump,”YoYoYoYo, 2006
  15. The Shins,“Australia,”Wincing the Night Away," 2007
  16. The Shins,“Phantom Limb,”Wincing the Night Away," 2007
  17. The Shins,“Red Rabbits,”Wincing the Night Away," 2007
  18. The Good, the Bad and the Queen,“Herculean,”S/T, 2007
  19. The Good, the Bad and the Queen,“Kingdom of Doom,”S/T 2007
  20. The Good, the Bad and the Queen,“80s Life,”S/T, 2007
  21. Zero 7,“Salt Water Sound,”Sam Eternal, 2001

Footnotes DJ Drama Lil Wayne mixtape Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry Jeff Chang's website Chevrolet ad featuring Mellencamp's“Our Country” John Mellencamp's change of heart U2 Tom Petty Wilco Jeff Tweedy Brian Eno Jim on Wilco's new release Wilco's A Ghost is Born The Arcade Fire The Arcade Fire's Funeral Wilco The Shins Garden State Sub Pop Shins to play SNL The Good the Bad and the Queen Blur Damon Albarn Gorillaz Clash Paul Simonon Verve Simon Tong Tony Allen DJ Danger Mouse